Hatch: Major Education Overhaul Ends Status Quo That Has Failed Students

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate advanced a bill on Wednesday to return decision-making power over education to state and local leaders.

After passing in the Senate 85-12, the bill, called the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, will move to the President’s desk for his signature, constituting another major bipartisan achievement for the new Republican Senate.

The bill, which has attracted the support of every major education reform leader in Utah, fixes many problems caused by the earlier “No Child Left Behind” education law.

Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, a member and former chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and a cosponsor of this bill, highlighted the role of Utah educators in crafting the legislation. “I worked closely with Utah education leaders who understand well the needs of our students and teachers, and I’m pleased to have their support in this effort,” said Hatch. “In all of our work to craft this bill over the last several months, I have worked closely with a multitude of state leaders who support this bill.”

Returning decision-making authority to the states is what motivated Senator Hatch to work on the bill. The Wall Street Journal, for example, has said that ESSA “would represent the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” “Empowering local leaders, teachers, and parents to make decisions about their education system is the right thing to do,” Hatch said. “At the same time the bill maintains protections for our most vulnerable students without subjecting states to overbearing federal penalties. The status quo has left too many children behind. This bill makes significant improvements to give Utah students a better chance for a brighter future.”

Local leaders in Utah have praised ESSA as a major win for a better education system:

Brad Smith, Utah State Superintendent:

As both a district and state superintendent, it is apparent to me that the largest power grab in the history of American education is the waiver process that has existed under the present incarnation of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The results of the waiver process have not been salutary for education, for developments in administrative law, or for the health of our republic. Reforming and revising this deeply flawed statute has and must be the primary work of our federal delegates with respect to education. 

Dave Buhler, Utah Commissioner of Higher Education

“The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will provide necessary tools to state and local education leaders that can help Utah students to graduate from high school ready for college. Similar to our involvement in Governor Herbert’s review of K-12 education standards, Utah’s higher education leaders support efforts that ensure accountable, rigorous results in K-12 that lead to greater success in college, which then ultimately leads to a more successful talent force for the state.” -David L. Buhler, Utah Commissioner of Higher Education.”

Rick Robins, Superintendent of Juab School District:

I believe this is the right direction for education in our country by recognizing statesrights and educational autonomy yet still protecting the rights of individual students. I greatly appreciate Senator Hatch and his approach.

McKell Withers, Superintendent of Salt Lake City School District:

We will all benefit from Senator Hatch’s thoughtful and reasoned support of the ESSA legislation.

Senator Hatch’s support for local control and helping all young people succeed is clearly evidenced by his position on ESSA.

Having Senator Hatch support ESSA speaks volumes about his advocacy for the families of Utah and the great work that can be done through Congress. 

Senator Hatch’s vote in favor of ESSA provides a unique opportunity to move forward and better serve the young people attending public schools in America.

Heidi Matthews, UEA Board of Directors Member and NEA State Director:

As a Utah teacher, I am very grateful for the leadership and support my Senator Hatch has for ESSA. Senator Hatch understands that those those closest to the student can best inspire and educate our youth in Utah. No longer burdened by excessive Federal regulation and accountability measures, ESSA initiates a dramatic shift in decision-making authority to those closest to the students.   Thank you for championing legislation that begins the process of returning trust and professionalism to the classroom. Education is not a ‘one-size-fits-all endeavor and there is nothing ‘standard’ about any one of my students. I appreciate Senator Hatch’s efforts to place students at the forefront of this legislation. I am particularly excited about his championing of educational technology that places an emphasis on the professional development of teachers to ensure that classroom technology is used appropriately and in the most effective manner.

Utah State Board of Education:

The Utah State Board of Education is supportive of the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to replace the antiquated and federally proscriptive No Child Left Behind Act.  We implore all of our Utah congressional delegation to vote in favor of ESSA.

Lane Beattie, President and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce: 

By passing the ‘Every Child Succeeds Act’ today, Congress has returned more control of education over to Utah where it belongs. This bill is a good step forward in returning control of our education to the state’s and locals, a goal we will continue to work toward.

I applaud the leadership of Utah’s senior senator and statesman, Orrin Hatch, for his willingness to act for the benefit of every student in Utah.  Senator Hatch worked to include important amendments to the bill that are important to our state’s economy, such as STEM initiatives and other pathways for increased technology innovation and research.

All Utahns want for all kids to reach grade-level literacy and numeracy by the fourth grade. This bill empowers willing states to achieve that goal with improved early learning and high quality preschool experiences. It also invests in our hardworking teachers with more preparation programs, including those designed to improve literacy, civics education, and STEM education.


Now more than ever, education is the surest path to economic success. We must move Utah’s education rankings back to the top-ten in the nation, and ESSA gets us closer to meeting that goal.

Bill Crim, President and CEO of United Way of Salt Lake:


United Way of Salt Lake applauds Senator Hatch for his tireless work in building a path forward for students across the country. The Every Student Succeeds Act provides for more local control while continuing to ensure accountability, increases opportunity for ALL students, and makes strong investments in proven programs like community schools, pay-for-success, and Promise Neighborhoods that ensure student success.


Utah PTA:  

We support the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) because:

· It replaces the dysfunctional No Child Left Behind and many of its federal mandates.

· This bill will end Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), a federal program that incorrectly labeled virtually all Utah schools as failing.

· This bill puts control over our schools back in the hands of Utahns and decreases federal intrusion.

· Utah will be able to create their own accountability system, which can take into account how standardized test scores will be used, how teachers are evaluated, and the actions needed to help struggling schools.

· The bill clearly states that control over standards is the purview of each state, no federal approval of our state standards will be required.

· Utah will no longer be required to apply for No Child Left Behind waivers, because the waiver process will become null and void.

. The bill also includes improvements to Title I that would require districts to conduct family engagement activities that are proven to make a difference for students and schools.

Rich Nelson, President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council:


As President and CEO of the Utah Technology Council, I have a direct interest in ensuring that the K-12 public education system helps our children grown into educated, talented adults. It is imperative to our workforce that all students have access to talented, empowered teachers, innovative local leaders, and strong state support for their education. I appreciate the Every Student Succeed Act’s emphasis on these goals, and applaud it for carefully returning power to the state, while making sure the state must continue to focus on accountability for all students. 


I am particularly appreciative of Senator Hatch’s support of education technology with a focus on professional development  in the bill – by providing students with a more tailored approach to their learning and balancing teacher and student interaction with the rapid-response nature of technology, we can create classrooms where all students enjoy a personalized learning experience.